Singapore’s ‘Straits Times’ reported the presence of Li Yuanchao, head of the Chinese Communist Party’s organisation department’s meeting with the Kim Yong nam, president of North Korea’s parliament in the DPRK capitol.
Should we be surprised by this visit? In the ‘Financial Times of London’ [10 June 2011] featured on the front page ‘China to develop North Korea trade zones’.
This news should not lift an eyebrow, say, among policy circles and the chattering class in Washington. [GuamDiary’s entry on 11 February 2011 alerted its readers to John Park’s talk at the New York Korea Society. There, making personal observations, he spoke of China’s investing in North Korea’s rust belt at the border city of Rajin-Sonbong aka ‘Rason’, to develop port facilities, rebuild infrastruce, and infuse capital into new industires or revive old ones. Park is a senior analyst at the US Peace Institute, an organisation set up by the US government.]
For China, this upgrading of the DPRK’s port city makes good yuan and sense, since, at lower transportation fees, allow Beijing to ship products and raw material towards China’s south. For the DPRK, the advantages are obvious.
The ST and FT and other news outlets have commented, not in depth, on North Korea’s tilt towards China like economic reforms. They have spoken of Kim Jong il’s three visits within the last year to China, as proof positive that his guided tours of China’s ‘Wirkshaftswunder’ or economic miracle could and would profit North Korea. The ‘Rason’ economic trade zone is proof positive of a breakthrough.
Nonetheless the DPRK is not loathe to creating economic trade zones on its own territory. Have the North Korean watchers forgotten Kaesong or Sinuiji special administration zone, which the Chinese put a kaboosh on, owing to rivalry China’s own Dondong in 2002.
You have to wonder how fulsome and sloppy are the observations and work of the North Korean clerisy in the US and Europe, in not connecting the dots.
What about North Korea delegations who have gone to observe Vietnam’s ‘doi moi’ and economic sprintt ahead?
Kim Jong il & co. do not see the world in the stark tones the western media paints. They are open to change as long as it is moulded to North Korea’s philosophy of ‘Juche’ and the ‘Cholima spirit’. And change has come about, albeit not in Chinese cloth as the west and the US would will.
As for Kim’s three visits to China, they have more to hammering out the terms of Sino North Korea’s joint projects, and less than on the succession issue, which China has accepted. China and the US have learnt how hard and skillfully North Koreans bargain. Pyongyang may play with a weaker hand, but its representative known how to use it to their advantage. Beijing, at its present stage of development, sees the advantages of outsouring. Additionally, its investments buttress North Korea’s economy as an antidote to sanctions and isolation, and to counter South Korea and the US’ policy to ‘roll back’ the DPRK to the point of collapse.
The ROK and US officials may tsk, tsk, tsk China’s moves but they have only to blame themselves for pursuing a mad, mindless policy towards the DPRK. As a result, they refuse to kick start the six party talks in Beijing for the simply reason that the North wont kowtow to their standpoint.